By Zach Walker
How would the Dallas Cowboys play in a game that really didn’t have too much chance of playoff position change? When do they start to pull starters? How big of a lead is comfortable enough? This Washington team isn’t going to ease off, and likely will attempt to dagger some Cowboys players.
The Cowboys first drive was a healthy spread. DeMarco Murray on first down, Jason Witten for a first down, on second down. Terrence Williams with a 14 yard out on first down, was followed by a six yard run by Murray. A rollout to Witten for 18 yards on second down again moves the chains. After a zero gainer by Murray, Romo connected with Dez Bryant on a comeback for six yards, bringing up the game’s first third down. Trying to connect with Cole Beasley, Keenan Robinson read the play superbly, undercut the route, and got hands on the ball, but couldn’t reel in the interception. Dan Bailey’s 36 yard field goal was true, and the Cowboys were on the board with their first drive.
Washington would pressure the Cowboys with just three plays. A two yard Alfred Morris rush, a Robert Griffin pass to Darrel Young for nine yards and a first down. The third play was a home run, a pass completed two yards behind the line of scrimmage to Desean Jackson, got a block of Barry Church from Trent Williams and activated those D-Jax-Jets for a 69 yard touchdown.
But this is a copy-cat league, you score quick, we score quick. A two yard Murray rush, another Witten first down gain on second down, then an end-around to Dwayne Harris for a slight gain of maybe half of a yard. Dez needed one touchdown catch to tie Terrell Owens’ touchdown reception record of 15, and on a play that T.O. loved to exploit one-on-one’s, the straight flare screen, Dez caught the pass behind the line, simply pushed the cornerback aside and showed off his jets, blowing the doors off the defense for 65 yards, and regaining the lead ten to seven.
Washington would be forced off the field in three plays, and the Cowboys would continue to accelerate. Needing just 17 yards to set the franchise single season rushing record, Murray would get the drive started right, with a 10-yard reception. Then a six yard run, followed by a three yard rush, on that run, he was never actually downed, just the refs blowing the play dead. On third and one, Murray would get his record, with a beauty of a run between Ron Leary and Tyron Smith for 32 yards. But the record book would have to stay open, Because Romo would put the ball in the Dez-zone, err… red zone and Dez got right underneath it, and got his twinkly toes down in the grass for the touchdown, although the refs didn’t think so at first, Jason Garrett’s challenge flag got them to look again, and another Dez touchdown, and another 2014 Cowboys’ single season mark for the record book.
The Cowboys defense would continue to force Washington off the field in three short plays. Murray would pick up four yards as the first quarter closed out, and Joseph Randle would flip for one as the second quarter opened. On third and five, Romo found a developing “Mr. Chains” Cole Beasley for seven yards and the first down. The next play was a deep shot towards Terrence Williams, and I chose ‘towards’ because the defensive back, David Amerson clacked ankles with Williams and maybe had his hands not caught Williams’ ankle, the refs could have thought incidental contact. The ball now at the Washington 32 yard line, Murray rushed for 8 yards, and Romo found Beasley for the first down of eight yards. But after Murray gained two yards, the drive fizzled and Dan Bailey was brought out to boot another three onto the board.
Then something happened. The “Want” surfaced. I don’t know who called for it, but what a call, and supreme execution. The Cowboys went for the onside kick, and everyone thought that ball was going long, that’s why Washington lined up like it was a run-of-the-mill kickoff, but once that ball left Dan Bailey’s foot, only the right side of the kick coverage knew that was happening, and Dwayne Harris had the ball glance off his calf and Barry Church pulled it in for the successful onside kick. The Cowboys seemed to be forced off the field in three plays, but an illegal use of hands penalty kept the Cowboys on the field. Two plays later, Romo found Cole Beasley for 11 yards and a first down, but EJ Biggers tackled Beasley by his facemask, giving an extra 15 yards. DeMarco gained five through the air, then ran nine yards for the score and a twenty point lead.
Robert Griffin led Washington to a field goal, with a 14 play drive, including a negated sack by Tyrone Crawford on third down, because of a defensive holding penalty, leaving only 80 seconds left in the first half. A Lance Dunbar 80 yard touchdown run was called back because of a hold. The half would end with a fumble and recovery by Tony Romo.
Washington’s drive ended with a fourth down pass to Jordan Reed coming up short because of Bruce Carter stand at the 34 yard line. The Cowboys would three and out, but Washington would match with their own. The cycle would continue, until Washington would start to put something together. Another screen, like the Jackson touchdown, would move the ball 47 yards to the Dallas 43 yard line. Steady movement would move the down to the Cowboys’ seven yard line and the Washington offense would stay out for fourth and one. Looking for Pierre Garcon, Robert Griffin connected with Bruce Carter and Carter returned the ball 35 yards to the 40 yard line. The Cowboys would three and out again, and now it looked like Romo was safe to come out of the game. The three and outs would continue to rack up for Washington, and the Cowboys would continue to do nothing more than take some clock off the clock in three plays. Until with a little under 13 minutes left in the game, Tony Romo would get intercepted by Jackson Jeffcoat and that would seemingly seal his second prize or worst consideration for the league MVP.
Griffin would try and connect with Andre Roberts and Orlando Scandrick would clip the ball, then Roberts would do the same, then Bruce Carter made his second interception of the day. And even after three quarters, with a big lead, the defense working the Washington offense over, and after throwing an interception, what’s the point of Tony Romo staying out in the fire? But he did, and the offense kept it streak of three and outs alive.
The Washington offense finally found the endzone, after a first time penalty of tackling by the helmet, Robert Griffin scrambled for the touchdown, then a fight broke out because of a cheap crack back block by Pierre Garcon in the endzone on Kyle Wilber, and Orlando Scandrick voiced his disgust with him in a scrum. Romo then led a field goal drive, which had a third and 16 conversion to Terrence Williams for 51 yards. Then Terrell McClain sacked Robert Griffin, knocked the ball loose, that ball popped out, and Anthony Spencer picked it up on the first bounce and walked into the endzone. The next drive, a pass to Jordan Reed was tracked down by Tyrone Crawford, where he made Reed fumble and JJ Wilcox would recover. The next play, Brandon Weeden handed the ball off to Joseph Randle, and he looked to be shot out of a cannon on his way to a 65 yard touchdown blast.
What a game, what a regular season, but thankfully, this party has an after party.